Are you ready for Canada’s anti-spam laws?


Marketing Columnist

The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) was enacted to reduce the amount of unwanted and unsolicited electronic messages and to provide recipients with only those commercial electronic messages (CEM) they want to receive.

CEMs are electronic messages that are commercial in nature and include those messages sent by emails, text and other instant messages.

CASL creates a few unique challenges for businesses sending CEMs to Canadian citizens by requiring their express or implied consent prior to sending, in addition to certain requirements in the CEM itself.

Critical to understanding CASL is understanding that consent is required and knowing the difference between the types of consent: express and implied consent.

Express consent is obtained when the prospective recipient has explicitly agreed to receive CEMs from your organization.

For the express consent to be valid, the prospective recipient must be given the purpose for why the consent is being sought and clearly identifies the person seeking consent. Express consent must be obtained by an affirmative action by the consumer, such as checking an unchecked box.

Implied consent is consent by a prospective recipient. Consent is implied from the prospective recipient’s actions. This is often implied by the prospective recipient having an existing business relationship with your organization or by making inquiries to your organization.

Implied consent limits sending CEMs to two years when collected in the course of a purchase and six months when collected during an inquiry.

To help ensure you are following the regulations with regarding consent, I offer some industry best practices below.

-    Secure either express or implied consent 100 per cent of the time.
-    Consider incentivizing your consumers to opt-in to receive future offers.
-    Once you receive express consent, send a welcome confirmation to your new recipient.
-    Clearly disclose why consent is being sought and identify the sender.
-    When a recipient revokes his consent, update their profile on your CRM solution and inform any third party with whom the consent has been shared.
-    Follow the required elements of the CEM, including identifying the senders, providing contact information for the senders and having a free and clear unsubscribe mechanism.

The primary challenge companies are having with CASL is database management. To overcome this challenge, ensure you have the proper fields supported in your CRM database to notate and retain the appropriate consent status (express or implied) along with the date consent was received and method and/or source of the consent (such as telephone/website registration/preference center).

With implied consent, your organization will have the additional challenge of notating how long the consent is valid and should prevent the sending of CEMs when that consent has expired. You should consider backing up this information in a different location within your system.

Finally, when updating your consumer-facing communications, such as your privacy policy, consider the disclosure requirements under CASL and other data protection laws. Seek legal counsel on all updates to consumer documents to ensure compliance with the existing laws.

* This is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult your legal counsel with specific questions regarding the applicability of this law to your business.

Richard Lambert is the senior V-P at Aspen Marketing. For more information, email him at